by Rev. Don Allsman
Dr. Ramesh Richard has articulated a startling challenge to the Lord’s Great Commission in our day: how to provide for the 95 percent of pastors who have not been trained for ministry.
In a world that is becoming increasingly urban and poor, there needs to be mechanisms in place to train millions of pastors, elders, deacons, youth workers and church planters just to address the current situation. If revival were to explode in urban centers globally, the growth would be beyond our ability to respond. Current Formal/Traditional (FT) approaches are useful and helpful, but cannot meet the global demand. Other approaches are required, while at the same time, retaining all the options currently being utilized. Non-formal/Non-traditional (NN) options are making a significant difference in reaching the worldwide need.
The benefits of the FT approach include excellence and standardization. There is a confidence in the result of this kind of systematic training. But it is not accessible to the masses, not easily reproduced, unaffordable, not easily contextualized, not always practical and not flexible to non-Western learning styles (such as orality and cohort learning).
The NN approach is more nimble and fills the gaps found in the FT approach, but falls short where FT approaches are strong (excellence and standardization). Without strong quality control in the NN training process, the outcomes are naturally subject to suspicion, especially for credentialing agencies like denominations.
FT and NN options are making a significant difference in reaching the worldwide need. And while most of the discussion centers on Formal versus Non-formal approaches, there is a third innovative way to attack this problem: through a Formal/Non-traditional (FN) paradigm.
A FN approach allows the best of both worlds. The Urban Ministry Institute (TUMI) is seeking to shift the paradigm of formal theological education. Since 1995, TUMI has been proving that formal training can be excellent, systematic, standardized, affordable, reproducible, practical, available to the masses, easily contextualized and available to oral-learning cultures in a non-traditional way.
TUMI serves nearly 3,000 students in 18 countries. Students are receiving solid Biblical training in hundreds of cities, villages and prisons throughout Latin America, Asia, Africa, Europe and the USA. A diverse set of denominations and traditions are using TUMI’s program to train their leaders, while emphasizing their own distinctives and polity. They include Evangelical Free Church, Charismatic Episcopal Church, Reformed Church of America and Church of God in Christ.
TUMI is able to make this non-traditional training formal by working with several accredited academic partners who have evaluated TUMI’s Capstone Curriculum. Therefore, TUMI students who want to pursue an accredited degree may do so through admission to TUMI-partner schools as transfer students. These academic partners provide credibility to the excellence of Capstone’s seminary program and thereby establish a level of confidence in the rigor and fruitfulness of the program.
The key to the FN approach is that training is conducted at a local level, where men and women live and minister. They can take the Capstone seminary program without leaving their church, family and job to go attend a geographically remote institution. This also enhances contextualization, because the leadership developer can focus on training ministers in their specific context, such as a prison yard, a rural village or inner-city neighborhood. And the benefit to the local church is immediate. What a student learns on Thursday, they use in ministry on Sunday. There is no need to wait for years of training before a church leader is equipped to do ministry. Instead, they can become more effective as they learn and minister at the same time.
The effect on reproducibility is dramatic. Students can take one of the 16 Capstone modules and concurrently mentor a module they have already completed. Students do not need to finish all 16 modules before they are ready to develop other leaders.
The Capstone Curriculum is designed with orality in mind. All the quizzes and exams are based on what students hear during the video presentation. Exegetical and ministry projects can be presented orally. Many called and gifted ministers of the gospel have graduated from the Capstone Curriculum despite the fact that they were not good readers or writers. The goal is to ensure that students can effectively teach the Word of God.
Nearly 700 people have graduated because the Capstone Curriculum approach is so affordable. A student can complete this seminary-level program for under $1000.
Formal/traditional (FT) approaches are absolutely necessary. Non-formal/non-traditional (NN) methods must increase. But there is a third way as well: Formal/Non-traditional (FN). Here are a few ways the Church can work together:
As each part plays its role, it becomes feasible to provide training to 100 percent of the world’s pastors, fulfilling Dr. Ramesh Richard’s vision. But more than that, ministries of all kinds can leverage their capacity to significantly contribute to the Great Commission of the Lord Jesus.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Rev. Don Allsman is Vice President of World Impact and the Executive Director of Satellite Ministries for The Urban Ministry Institute (TUMI, www.tumi.org). He has served in various executive roles at World Impact since 1991 and currently oversees the 263 campuses of TUMI’s leadership training in 18 countries. Don can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.